"More than a space combat sim, more than a first person shooter and more than an MMO: Star Citizen is the First Person Universe that will allow for unlimited gameplay."
A pretty bold statement from Star Citizen creator Chris Roberts, but, given some of the game’s statistics, it’s hard to argue against this claim. Not only has this space sim gained more money than any other crowdfunded game to date, but it’s also the most successfully crowdfunded project of any kind: Star Citizen has now raised nearly $75 million, beating its nearest competitor - a web publishing platform - by $56 million. It's estimated that by the time the game is released the total raised will be closer to $100 million. That’s a pretty big budget for a movie, never mind a video game.
Roberts has quite the pedigree when it comes to space combat sims: the Wing Commander series, Privateer, Freelancer, there are few names as well-known as his when it comes to specific gaming genres. He states Star Citizen will be the culmination of his life’s work, a persistent yet ever-changing universe where players have the freedom to carve out whatever path they wish to follow.
Star Citizen is shaping up to be so much more than an MMO in space; it’s aiming for a level of ambition never before seen in gaming. Should it deliver on its promises, it will become this generation’s World Of Warcraft; a behemoth whose popularity endures for well over a decade.
From what we know so far, here are ten reasons why Star Citizen will blow you away.
There are two genres which work perfectly with the Oculus Rift: first person shooters and space sims. Seeing as Star Citizen is essentially a mix of both of these (as well as having a third person option), any lucky owners of the virtual reality device will find it the perfect accompaniment to the game.
Using the oculus while flying around in a dogfight will allow every Star Wars fan to live out their spaceship piloting fantasy. No longer will you be frantically inspecting a radar and trying to work out where that incoming fire is originating from, now you can simply turn you head and look out the windows, just like Vader would.
Utilizing the rift in sections that take place outside the cockpit will have its advantages as well. Not only will it make the first-person shooter element a more immersive experience, but even mundane tasks such as walking around the hanger and taking items from your locker will have that ‘I’m really there’ feel to it.
Mining is often the bread and butter of the space sim; a reliable and (usually) safe way to make money, but it can often be a bit tedious. Mining in Star Citizen breaks this mould. No longer a case of finding an asteroid and holding down a button until all its elements have been mined, the occupation now involves a degree of skill and dexterity.
There’s also the risk/reward factors that come into play: the more valuable minerals are found deeper inside the asteroids, which is where the volatile gasses are found. Meaning if you want the good stuff, you’ll be taking the risk of having your ship blown to bits. And should you manage to leave an area with a cargo hold filled with loot, you may find yourself a target of someone looking to make a quick buck.
There’s also the effect mining has on the overall economy: there are pros and cons for going freelance or working for an agent, there is an option to use brokers to find the best mining sites (you can even become a broker yourself), and there are huge number of specialist roles the occupation provides.
Not just something added as an afterthought to the game, mining in Star Citizen is a genuine, interesting, and lucrative career path.
Whereas most MMOs stick to adding new content a few times a year, Star Citizen is promising its updates will appear either weekly or bi-weekly. This will not only include new data, ships, stories, and campaigns, but also new content based on the actions of the game’s players.
Imagine these new storylines appearing all the time, new instances happening every couple of weeks, or even a new campaign being introduced which was partly the result of the your own actions. Often the problem with MMOs is that you don’t feel like you matter; you’re just a tiny, insignificant cog in a huge machine. Star Citizen promises to change that. The regular updates will show that even one player can have an effect on this universe.
Star Citizen is free to play, only the base game will be required; meaning that microtransactions will play a big part in funding these constant updates. Although it’s worth pointing out that anything in the game which can be bought for real money can also be acquired through gameplay.
Not just a case of the price of goods fluctuating at the behest of the programmers, the economy in Star Citizen is directly influenced by the players themselves. The actions of one player can have a ripple effect that causes changes to the economy as a whole, sometimes forcing the designers to react to this change in the game’s updates.
In some MMOs, the economy is only of primary concern for those players who prefer to make their money from buying and selling; in Star Citizen, it has an effect on all players. Having an arsenal of massively destructive missiles on your ship may make you a bad-ass, but should the minerals needed to make those missiles dry up, or the ships transporting the missiles from the factories be attacked by other players, you may find the price of these weapons suddenly skyrocket. What can you do about this situation? You could always mine some of the minerals needed yourself, or take a mission protecting the weapon factory's transporters.
Not only will you get paid for these tasks, but the price these death-bringing goods will also drop.
Star Citizen can be considered as having four different systems working within one game: an MMO, a single-player game, a space combat sim, and a first person shooter, all linked together through the 'Planetside' social module. This is something which has never been done before, and shows just why $100 million will be needed to fulfill Roberts' ambition.
None of these separate elements are 100% completed yet, but what we have seen so far looks amazing. With there being four different parts to Star Citizen, chances are everyone will have their own personal favorite. Maybe some people will buy it mainly for the single player campaigns, perhaps others will be more interested in the multiplayer side of things, but having so much choice will mean everyone will get something from the game.
With Star Citizen being a game set in space, it’s pretty important that the ships are a stand-out feature. Much in the same way a driving game would be a letdown if all its cars were a bit crap.
At the moment there are over 50 ships available, with more to come before the game’s release. These range from your usual fighters and bombers, through to the enormous capital ships which come with a recommended minimum number of crew members in order to perform effectively.
As well as looking stunning, it was recently announced that a new damage model had been added to the game. This allows ships to react differently depending on the type of impact damage they suffer.
While all the ships will eventually be available for purchase with in-game currency, they can currently be pre-ordered with one of the game’s packages. These range from the standard ‘game plus starter ship’ at $48, through to the option which gives you virtually every ship in the game; its price? $18,000.
There are also insurance policies available to players, meaning should your ship and cargo get destroyed or stolen, all that hard work/real money isn’t totally lost. The policies have premiums that need to be regularly paid and come with varying levels of cover. The drudgery of insurance, made exciting by basing it in space.
There are some people who just aren’t interested in an MMO in space, preferring instead to play a modern version of the space sim games Roberts is famed for. While there will be others who want to hone their skills and get used to the game’s mechanics before setting off into a universe full of other players. For these individuals there is Squadron 42, the single player campaign element of Star Citizen.
Squadron 42 has been described as a story-driven campaign akin to the original Wing Commander series( though Mark Hamill and the Kilrathi aren’t expected to make an appearance). Although unlike Roberts’ previous games, Squadron 42 will also incorporate the first-person element from Star Citizen’s main game; approximately 35% of Squadron 42 is said to be played as a FPS.
Anyone who chooses to play Squadron 42 first will find certain achievements gained in this single-player mode can be brought over into the multiplayer part of the game. Squadron 42 is planned to be released in five separate chapters, each one containing ten missions.
Star Citizen will run on the 4th generation of CryEngine. This incredibly powerful game engine has been used in other visually stunning games such as RYSE: Son Of Rome, and is being utilized to full effect here.
The game looks stunning, even on low graphical settings. Though for any players lucky enough to own a beast of a rig, the option to see the universe rendered in a beautiful 4K resolution will be available. Roberts even expects Star Citizen to become the next benchmark game for new GPUs.
Star Citizen is being optimized to run on a wide range of PCs, so you don’t have to upgrade your hardware in order to play it. Although should you chose to invest in some new PC components, the game takes full advantage of modern tech such as multi-core CPUs and AMD’s mantle technology.
It’s a brave move attempting to mix two very different genres into one game, but Chris Roberts has the time, experience, team, and most importantly the enormous budget to make the FPS element of Star Citizen feel like more than something which has just been tacked on.
The FPS side of things comes into play at different times of the game. One of the more exciting prospects is when your ship gets invaded and you and your crew have to fight off the unwelcome space pirates in a first-person mode. Roberts has even talked about the dangers of having your character walk around some of the more unsavory areas while on planets: take a shortcut down a back alley with a pocket full of credits and you may find yourself fighting off a group of muggers.
Then there’s the zero gravity element, something which is notoriously difficult to get right in FPS games, but it’s looking like Star Citizen has nailed it. Roberts is so confident in this zero-g aspect that there’s going to be an entire in-universe sports game based on it. Astro Arena will have leagues and competitions for its players, meaning anyone who doesn't feel like making a name for themselves as a Han Solo-type space merchant can opt to become a sporting superstar instead, or perhaps even both.
1. The Space Simulation
Above all else, Star Citizen is a space simulator; so if this part of the game wasn’t the best the genre’s ever seen, then it would struggle. Luckily, it’s shaping up to be the most beautiful, most realistic, most immersive space sim ever made.
With the power of today’s modern PCs, Roberts has finally managed to make the game he always wanted. You actually feel like you’re deep in space, rather than merely playing a video game and getting that slightly disconnected feeling. Add to this the sheer number of ships available, the stunning physics/damage engine, and of course the sheer beauty of the universe, and you have the game which anyone who played Wing Commander all those years ago always wished for.
It’s not only the way Star Citizen looks and its freedom to do or go wherever you please, but it’s the promise of being able to experience the result of one man’s dream to create a truly open-ended universe, where anything really is possible. Become the greatest pilot, the deadliest pirate, build your own mining company, become a ship racing champion, an explorer, a smuggler, a sports star, make your name in this universe whichever way you wish.
Although the finished, full version of Star Citizen is unlikely to be released until 2016, almost every week brings new updates and news stories regarding the game.
Since this article was written it has been revealed that the final version’s client will likely be around 100Gb! Pretty unusual for a normal game, but then Star Citizen isn’t going to be a normal game, it’s not even going to be a normal MMO. This is something which is going to be truly unique, the likes of which has never been seen before.
$100 million dollars, immeasurable ambition, and an incredible imagination will see Star Citizen become the pinnacle of gaming, a chance for players to become someone who really matters in a huge universe, a game which has something for everyone, and proof that some dreams are worth chasing, no matter how unattainable they may seem.